Tuesday, 29 April 2008

When producing becomes illegal, prices go through the roof

THE OTHER DAY I was discussing rising oil prices with some friends, who were suggesting to me that the it's the market that is to blame for rapidly rising commodity prices.  I was explaining about the power of price signals and how these get muddled when governments intervene and they interrupted me to tell me that when oil is over one-hundred dollars a barrel, it's too late to talk -- it's obvious we're already running out.

I pointed out that oil is not at one-hundred dollars a barrel because we're running out of oil -- oil is at one-hundred dollars a barrel because in many parts of the world in which oil is (or could be) produced, producing oil is now essentially illegal.

In the continental USA for instance, restrictions on drilling around the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico and other states stymie efforts to tap into what amount to huge resources. (Opening up these areas would provide enough oil to power 60 million cars for 60 years, plus enough natural gas to heat 60 million homes for 160 years, but 85 percent of coastal waters have been declared off limits, along with similar restrictions on 75 percent of the onshore prospects. [Quoted from: Sound of Cannons. Emphasis mine.])

Meanwhile, environmental restrictions on building new refineries and expanding the productive capacity of existing refineries has made it all but impossible to expand production of the reserves that do exist.

==>ERGO 1: It's not that "we" are running out of oil, but that producing oil is rapidly becoming illegal.

==>ERGO 2: It's not a failure of markets, it's an obvious success of government: success in stifling production of the very stuff of industrial life, and in burying the ability of producers to respond to price signals in the way they need to.

THE SAME SORT OF story can be found with other commodities. The problem with price rises in most commodities is not that 'we're running out of room to grow stuff' or that 'we've got too much free trade.' What we have is another government success story.  As the story of rice shows, there is an almost compete lack of free trade in the staff of life for about half of the world's population - trade itself is slowly becoming illegal.

While the global price of rice has almost doubled, for example, adjustment to these prices has been all but impossible. Says Tyler Cowen in the New York Times in a piece called Freer Trade Could Fill the World's Rice Bowl (hat tip Paul Walker):

    Although rice is the major foodstuff for about half of the world, it is highly protected and regulated. Only about 5 to 7 percent of the world’s rice production is traded across borders; that’s unusually low for an agricultural commodity.
    So when the price goes up — indeed, many varieties of rice have roughly doubled in price since 2007 — this highly segmented market means that the trade in rice doesn’t flow to the places of highest demand.

Cowen goes on to say:

    The more telling figure is that over the next year, international trade in rice is expected to decline more than 3 percent, when it should be expanding. The decline is attributable mainly to recent restrictions on rice exports in rice-producing countries like India, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Egypt.

As Walker concludes, "when trade is restricted and food exports are made illegal"there is little incentive to plant, harvest or store rice. High prices should give producers the incentive to expand production, which is just what is needed for rice. But if producers can not access those high prices on the world market because of export restrictions, then they don't have the incentive needed."  It's surely impossible to disagree with his conclusion:

There are few areas in which free trade could do more good, than in the production of food.

UPDATE: Matt B in my comments section brilliantly explains how understanding price signals leads to the proper response to rising prices:

    How different peoples' reactions would be if, instead of reading "high prices," they read "scarcity".
    It would transform the debate. The immediate question that follows would not be demands for price controls or export restraints ,etc., but instead, "how do we raise supply?"

What if?

ONE OF THE FASCINATING things to do when studying history is to speculate about "What if?" questions.

Studying history with Scott Powell offers ample opportunity to speculate.  Scott's current course on the Middle East alone (which you can still join in) offers ample opportunity for speculation.

  • What if Britain hadn't nearly bankrupted itself in two centuries of Middle Eastern military adventures in a bid to protect its Indian colony?  What shape would the Middle East's maps be in today if Britain's flawed mercantilist thinking hadn't entangled it in so many misadventures in which it had no need to participate?
  • What if Harry Truman hadn't entangled America in the Middle East in a flawed bid to restrain communism?  What use would the bankrupt Soviet Union have been able to make of the Mid-East even if Truman had left the sphere alone? (And what threat would it have been if Franklin Roosevelt and Klaus Fuchs hadn't both in their own way helped to arm the Soviets?)
  • What if Dwight Eisenhower hadn't pulled the pin on Britain, France and Israel's recovery of the Suez Canal after Nasser's nationalisation of it?  Would Eisenhower's support for the already successful recovery have helped to nip the incipient Mid-Eastern nationalism in the bud?
  • What if Britain and the US hadn't stood back when the oil fields and refineries owned, established and built up by British and American investors were nationalised by tribal leaders and would be nationalist heroes?  Would this have sent a signal to all potential plundererers of American and British property that property rights would always be upheld by American and British governments, and given a valuable lesson in the importance of property rights?

Perhaps the greatest tragedy thrown up by these 'what-ifs' is a real failure of ideas. I've already mentioned the flawed mercantilist thinking that empowered Britain's military misadventures -- an entanglement that cost Britain in both wealth and manpower, without any real gain. 

Perhaps the most important thing demonstrated by the whole tragedy of the Middle East  -- and the Mid-East's failure to ever really lift off is certainly a tragedy -- is the failure to properly communicate the ideas that underpin the freedom and prosperity of the west.   This is the real failure of the west with respect to the non-west.

YOU SEE, ALL THE countries of the Middle East at one time or another were confronted with the need to to shake off their superstitious pasts and to modernise their bad selves (to use the words of educator Maria Montessori, they developed a 'sensitive period' for learning about what made the west great); when confronted with the obvious military and economic superiority of the west all of them looked westward for inspiration  -- but what countries like Turkey and Egypt and eventually even Afghanistan saw when they realised their own backwardness and looked westward for inspiration was not the ideas of the likes of John Locke or Thomas Jefferson or Adam Smith -- the ideas that had underpinned the west's freedom and prosperity -- but instead the intellectual pygmies who then crawled across the intellectual wastelands of the late-nineteenth century who were then doing all they could to undercut freedom and prosperity altogether.

Instead of Carl Menger, Turkey's Kemal Atatutk picked up Karl Marx.  Instead of Frederic Bastiat, Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser picked up Frederick Engels.   It's a powerful example of the necessity for good intellectual hygiene and of the power of even bad ideas -- that ideas can as easily destroy as make prosperous, depending on the particular ideas one picks up.  

Each Middle Eastern country modernised at a different time, each picking up the intellectual current of that time -- and unfortunately by the latter half of the nineteenth century when most were modernising, the intellectual current of the west was already fast dwindling to become a cesspool*.  The results in large part can still be seen today, with the secular shibboleths of collectivism and nationalism fighting the secular battle against the superstitious backwardness of Islam, and losing.

You see, the game of 'Historical What-If?'  is endlessly fascinating, and what I've said here has only just scratched the surface: I've only posed questions arising from the first few lectures of Scott Powell's Islamist Entanglement course

It's fascinating to speculate for example about what the whole Middle East would be like, hell, what  the whole world be like, if it had never been infected with the stinking collectivism of Marx and the nasty nationalism of the likes of Hegel and the German 'ethnic nationalists': if all the many millions slaughtered by the dictators of the twentieth century had been allowed to live, and if all the billions enslaved by totalitarian ideology had been allowed to live free.

JUST IMAGINE IF THE world hadn't been intellectually empowered to give power to those killers, "those depraved individuals who would rather kill than live, who would rather inflict pain and death than experience pleasure, whose pleasure comes from the infliction of pain and death. Unfortunately," observes George Reisman in his book Capitalism, "there is no lack of such individuals...

[and no shortage of] philosophical justification for [their] murders, such as the security of the State, the will of God, the achievement of Lebensraum,or the establishment of communism and a future classless society. Each of these alleged values supposedly justified the murder of living human beings. As the Communists were so fond of saying, “The end justifies the means.”

And with enablers like Hegel and Marx to  state the ends -- which amount to making one neck for one noose -- the killers were given power and the means by which to carry out their atrocities.  But "just imagine," as Reisman invites ...

In eras that are philosophically and culturally better than our own, [these killers] might even pass their entire lives quietly, in modest obscurity, causing harm to no one. In such a better era, Hitler might have passed his days as an obscure paperhanger, Himmler as a chicken farmer, and Eichmann as a factory worker or office clerk. Lenin would probably have been just a disgruntled intellectual,and Stalin perhaps an obscure cleric. But in the conditions of a collapse of rationality, frustrations and feelings of hatred and hostility rapidly multiply, while cool judgment, rational standards, and civilized behavior vanish. Monstrous ideologies appear and monsters in human form emerge alongside them, ready to put them into practice.

In short, the real lesson from even these few 'what-ifs' is the life-saving necessity for good intellectual hygiene.

How's yours? 
* Thank goodness New Zealand was settled in 1840, when John Locke and Adam Smith were at least remembered, if not still admired.  The Treaty of Waitangi at least pays homage to the shadow of John Locke, which is really its chief and perhaps only boon. (And thank goodness that when Asian tigers like Hong Kong and Taiwan began to take off in the latter half of last century, they chose to ignore the then-fashionable intellectual fads of the west, and go for prosperity instead)

Temperatures on the March?

It's said that a lie goes around the world while truth is still getting its boots on.  It works the same for deception.  For example:

"March warmest on record over world land surfaces" worries the Daily Times of Pakistan. "Second-warmest March globally, cool in US," demurs the Baltimore Sun.  "March's record sizzle," says Melbourne's Age.  "Global Land Temperature Warmest On Record" says Science Daily. "Global land temperature in March sets record" says China Daily.  And The Australian follows up the pack by announcing: "Global average temperature has warmed substantially, by about 0.3C from January 2008 to March 2008," 

So that's about 0.3C since January's cold snap and the 0.7C drop in temperatures across all of last year

Note that you should never accuse a warmist of fudging figures; just ask the US Government's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), who last week issued a press release on which most of those reports above were based which said:

The average global temperature (land and ocean surface combined) for last month was the 2nd warmest on record for March, while the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was near average (ranking the 63rd warmest) ...

Its notable that the headlines pick up on the scarier picture -- "2nd warmest on record for March" -- rather than the business as usual news that the US experienced the "63rd warmest."  But just ask yourself for a moment why, with only 129 years of records, they didn't write that last March was "the 66th coldest March on record," or "the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. ranked about average for the past 129 years of records." Says Bob Wester,

Characterizing it as the "63rd warmest" is yet another example of the pervasive bias in the handling of climate data by many US scientists whose job is dependent on the free flow of federal funding for "global warming" studies.

But why do these figures seem so disparate?  In the same sentence we're told that average global temperature for last month was "the 2nd warmest on record for March," and then we're informed that the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was "only 63rd warmest."  What's going on?

What's going on is that neither the NCDC nor the media are making meaningful comparisons, and nor is the scariest measure meaningful.  We're not comparing apples with apples, but we're still trying to make apple sauce.

You see, the key word above is "land."  While this last March showed the third warmest figures "on record" for surface temperatures in March (and the NCDC is finally beginning to realise that Anthony Watts' criticisms of their collection of the surface record is highly questionable), the figures for oceans and for the troposphere -- the parts of the globe which global warming models says should warm first -- gave temperatures that are the third and fourth lowest for the past twenty years, as satellite figures from University of Alabama at Huntsville and NASA's RSS both show, and which most of the world's media neglected to report.

Let's just repeat that and put it in bold: global warming models say that the oceans and the troposphere should warm first ... and these temperatures are the third and fourth lowest for the past twenty years.

Why did NCDC and most of the world's media neglect to report this apparent, um, falsification of the models?  Feel free to speculate.

But what do these figures mean, if they mean anything at all?  Well, it certainly means that the climate models on which all the scary scenarios for the future are manufactured are shown to be less reliable for predicting the future than the horoscopes the world's media also regularly run.  It certainly demonstrates that whatever causal factors are present in temperature changes, the scientists programming the models and Al-Goreithms certainly don't have the first clue about them -- especially in terms of the scary "positive feedback loops" they mutter about to sound really scary. 

And so, since all the warmist scaremongering is based on the predictions of these models, it probably means (to say this as gently as possible) that it's safe to say the warmist case is still yet to be proven.


I sent out a couple of posts last night that don't appear to have 'taken.'  I'll see if I can find them in the ether shortly, and hang them back up here where I'd intended them to be.

Beach Haven Spec House(s) - Organon Architecture

                                            SE Perspective Option 1 Colour

PICT0021 PICT0014 Here's a couple of houses I drew up as 'possible projects' to help a friend sell a difficult bush-clad site in Beach Haven, on Auckland's North Shore, mainly to show potential purchasers what was possible there.  Simple but (I like to think) effective. 

I particularly liked how the most radical plan was the most conservative looking of the two:

Option 2 Revision A SW Perspective
Oh yes, and just as it's possible to produce more than one house for the same site, so too one can produce more than one house from the same plan, as for example the house below and the one at the top  of the post ...
                                                 SE Perspective Option 1a

Monday, 28 April 2008

Higher wages need higher taxes?

The Labour Party's Hunua candidate fails basic economics.  Put your laughing gear on and head over to this 'Higher Incomes Need Higher Wages' post at Jordan Carter's Just Left blog (yes folks, this is Labour's official Hunua candidate), and maybe stay around to help his commenters shoot all the fish in his barrel-- and make sure you bookmark his site it so you don't miss out on further mirth over the coming months.

Oh, and by the way, young Jordan has said some interesting things already in his short and ignoble political career, as Whale Oil steadily catalogues . . .  my favourite is this one selected by Cactus Kate: "I wouldn’t go into business if my life depended on it. I find trade immoral."

Taxing food as food keeps getting dearer

As food prices go through the roof for all sorts of reasons -- most of them involving government meddling -- people are sensibly demanding that government here removes GST on food.  Quite right.  Government Slavery Tax on food is an abomination.  As I've said before, "Who else but a politician would see the poorest of the poor and still want to take the money out of their pockets they could have used to eat."

Turns out however that defenders of big government have no intention of taking their hand out of food-buyers' pockets.  Helen Clark, says nay.  So too does Michael Cullen.  And, of course, David Farrar -- never one to miss a chance to defend bigger government just as long as it his brand of bigger government -- who gives four reasons Grab Snatch and Take shouldn't be taken off food, and not one of them holds water:

  1. While poorer people struggle to pay their food bills, David says we can't take GST off food because "it would impose significant compliance costs on retailers" if GST were removed on one category of goods and not from others.  The answer, surely, is a simple one: remove it from all categories of goods. But a defender of bigger government like David Farrar wouldn't countenance this.
  2. While poorer people struggle to pay their food bills, David says we can't take GST off food because "it would start a trend of removing GST on more and more items, and the future political scene will be a series of debates about what GST should be one." And the problem with that is?  What better way could the "the future political scene" spend its time than discussing ways to remove the encumbrance of government from people's lives? But a defender of bigger government like David Farrar wouldn't countenance this.
  3. While poorer people struggle to pay their food bills, David says we can't take GST off food because "this is a one-off change that can never be repeated, and any benefits from it could well be swallowed up by further changes in international food prices."  This is insane.  A permanent removal of GST on food is not a one-off change -- it leaves poorer people permanently better placed to respond to price rises, and to better plan their lives with their money.  On the other hand, if GST isn't removed and there are further increases in food prices coming down the pike, then poorer people will be even less well placed to deal with them, and permanently less well off.  But a defender of bigger government like David Farrar wouldn't consider this.
  4. Finally While poorer people struggle to pay their food bills, David says we can't take GST off food because "it would mean direct taxes would be $2.4 billion higher than they need to be, to compensate for the GST loss."  Not if you put the bung back in the pork barrel ands cut spending by that same amount it wouldn't.  And don't tell me there are no means by which you couldn't kill of some of the bigger white elephants and put our own money back in our pockets.  But a defender of bigger government like David Farrar wouldn't countenance this.

The only argument for the government not taking its hand out of food buyers' pockets is government greed.  Instructive, isn't it, which bedfellows are in favour of government greed at the expense of greater penury from their countrymen.

White elephants on the hoof

With all the investment on public transport in Auckland over recent years -- tens of millions of dollars spent creating 'bus lanes' that throttle Auckland's roadways and slow down traffic; hundreds of millions of dollars on the Britomart Transport Centre for the several dozen people who use it; hundreds of millions of dollars on upgrading rail lines and railway stations for those same several dozen people; $150,000 per car spent on a busway on the North Shore that is mostly empty while neighbouring motorway lanes are clogged -- after all those hundreds and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars poured down these various black holes of unprofitability, the result has been ... no increase at all  in patronage of public transport*.

You'd think there'd be a lesson there, wouldn't you, one that the "planners" of Auckland's public transport and the "guardians" of taxpayers' money might like to consider?
*Result is from figures discussed this morning on RadioNZ, and here at Liberty Scott's last month.

UPDATE 1: By the way, those without an "ideological commitment to buses" might care to know that buses  need to carry eight passengers to be a better use of road space than a car, and twice as much as that to be more environmentally friendly.  Info here at Liberty Scott's.

UPDATE 2: Looks like the only trains the gummint wants to see running are trains that are gummint-owned and unprofitable.  Story here.  Comment here at, naturally, Liberty Scott's.

Making us poorer

Does anyone else find it ironic that in the same month that John Key has pledged to borrow $1.5 billion to install broadband in their homes (that's a cost of about $2000 per home, the cost to be borne by the taxpayers who live in those homes), the government has told Canadian investors who wanted to voluntarily give shareholders a similar amount that they won't be allowed to?

In other words, Key wants to take $1.5 billion out of capital markets to build a network that in the current regulatory environment is going to lose money (and if it weren't going to lose money, private investors would already be doing it), while shareholders and those capital markets from which those funds will be taken have just been denuded by a similar amount because of government regulation.

In other words -- and given that greater productivity comes about from ever greater application of capital to the job of producing wealth -- government regulation is making us poorer twice over.

UPDATE: Just to restate the point: 

The more capital invested, the better equipped are our places of work;  the better equipped a plant is, the more the individual worker can produce within a unit of time; and the more the individual worker can produce within a unit of time, the higher is what the economists call the marginal productivity of his labor and, thereby, the higher real wages he gets. [ref Mises: 'Wage Earners & Employers']

Or to restate the point in even simpler terms: The more capital a country invests productively, the higher are the real wages in that country. If you want higher real wages, then you need more and more capital invested productively, not consumed destructively.

And since these two measures between them take around $3 billion directly out of NZ's capital markets, and indirectly suggest to offshore investors that their money is unwelcome here and their investments are insecure, I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to suggest what effect this has on real wages.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Sunday School: More Good Biblical Advice, #137


More of God's good advice on torture here from his Big Book of Stories and Stuff.  Just remember, children, sometimes you have to beat people for their own good (although don't try it at home).  And remember, too, that the Christian God isn't evil for giving such advice, he's just misunderstood -- or as one commenter argued recently here at Not PC, "Sometimes you have to do evil to do good."

If you're a real adept, you can say all that with a straight face.

[Image from Russell's Teapot.  Torture advice collected by Dwindling in Unbelief.  There's plenty more advice and humour at both places.]

Saturday, 26 April 2008

The three horsemen of peace

I ended my Anzac Day post yesterday with the thought "if you want to give thanks for peace, then thank a soldier."

On a weekend in which we give thanks to those who fought and died for our freedom, it's important to be reminded that veneration for those who defended our freedoms is not veneration for nationalism or for martial values; at a time in which we're reminded of the violence and destruction of war, of the generations ruined by the wars of the twentieth century, it's imperative we not be confused about the distinction between those who initiate physical force and aggression, and those who defended our freedoms against the militant horsemen of doom and destruction.

D9-viking rembrandt112 If you want to understand the roots of war, you must also understand that war's greatest antagonists are not those whom your schoolteachers might have led you to believe.  War's greatest antagonists are free trade and capitalism, and the industrial civilization built on free trade and capitalism that your schoolteachers take for granted even as they damn it.  The truth is that throughout history, the two fundamental antagonists have been the trader and the warrior.  

The trader relies buys and sells to everyone's advantage; he relies on voluntary action and peaceful cooperation -- in his work he demonstrates the harmony of interests of free men.  The trader is a man of peace.  The warrior by contrast is a man of plunder, someone who needs and feeds on destruction.  His values are inimical to human life.

I invite you to keep this fundamental antagonism in mind as you read this post, and to reflect on the all too obvious fact that despite the trader being the force for peace, it is the warrior who has always got the better press.

Trade.   Trade works. As Frederic Bastiat observed, "when goods don't cross border, armies will." Countries that trade with each other don't go to war with each other: there's too much to lose.

    Further, free trade helps quell government's passion for war. "It creates powerful lobbying groups on all sides that demand the preservation of peace and the triumph of diplomacy over hostility. International trade networks create intermediating structures of business relations that work as a barrier to bombs and belligerence."
Trade trumps conquest. Rather than seeing trade itself as a conflict, as something involving embargoes, sanctions and aggressive 'trade wars,' we should realise that peace and free trade are mutually dependent.

Let those who are actually concerned with peace observe, for example, that trade brought benefits to twentieth-century Germany and Japan that their destructive attempts at conquest never could.  You can read that short lesson here: Trade versus Conquest.]

"Laissez-faire capitalism is the only social system based on the recognition of individual rights and, therefore, the only system that bans force from social relationships, observed Ayn Rand in her article 'The Roots of War.' "By the nature of its basic principles and interests, it is the only system fundamentally opposed to war."

    Statism—in fact and in principle—is nothing more than gang rule. A dictatorship is a gang devoted to looting the effort of the productive citizens of its own country. When a statist ruler exhausts his own country’s economy, he attacks his neighbors. It is his only means of postponing internal collapse and prolonging his rule...
    Statism needs war; a free country does not. Statism survives by looting; a free country survives by production.

By contrast:

    Men who are free to produce, have no incentive to loot; they have nothing to gain from war and a great deal to lose. Ideologically, the principle of individual rights does not permit a man to seek his own livelihood at the point of a gun, inside or outside his country. Economically, wars cost money; in a free economy, where wealth is privately owned, the costs of war come out of the income of private citizens—there is no overblown public treasury to hide that fact—and a citizen cannot hope to recoup his own financial losses (such as taxes or business dislocations or property destruction) by winning the war. Thus his own economic interests are on the side of peace.
In a statist economy, where wealth is “publicly owned,” a citizen has no economic interests to protect by preserving peace—he is only a drop in the common bucket—while war gives him the (fallacious) hope of larger handouts from his master. Ideologically, he is trained to regard men as sacrificial animals; he is one himself; he can have no concept of why foreigners should not be sacrificed on the same public altar for the benefit of the same state.
The trader and the warrior have been fundamental antagonists throughout history. Trade does not flourish on battlefields, factories do not produce under bombardments, profits do not grow on rubble. Capitalism is a society of traders—for which it has been denounced by every would-be gunman who regards trade as “selfish” and conquest as “noble.”
Let those who are actually concerned with peace observe that capitalism gave mankind the longest period of peace in history—a period during which there were no wars involving the entire civilized world—from the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

Industrial civilisation and the values that gave rise to it are fundamental antagonists to the values of war and conquest.  The benefits of industrial civilisation are fundamentally dependent on freedom -- the freedom to trade; the freedom to produce; the freedom to pursue our own individual happiness, secure in our right to do so.  Just as aggressive war is antagonistic to every one of these fundamental freedoms, so too are the fruits of war and conquest.  For centuries man pursued wealth by conquest -- the industrial revolution and the industrial civilization it produced now demonstrates conclusively that wealth comes from production, not from destruction.  Says George Reisman:

    It is vital to recognize the enormous contribution that the essential vehicle of economic progress, namely industrial civilization, has made to human life and well-being since its birth over two centuries ago in the Industrial Revolution.
    Industrial civilization has radically increased human life expectancy: from about thirty years in the mid-eighteenth century to about seventy-five years today. The enormous contribution of industrial civilization to human life is [dramatically] illustrated by the fact that the average newborn American child has a greater chance of living to age sixty-five than the average newborn child of a nonindustrial society has of living to age five. These marvelous results have come about because of an ever improving supply of food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and all the conveniences of life . . .
    In the last two centuries, loyalty to the values of science, technology, and capitalism has enabled man in the industrialized countries of the Western world to put an end to famines and plagues, and to eliminate the once dread diseases of cholera, diphtheria, smallpox, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever, among others. . .
    As the result of industrial civilization, not only do billions more people survive, but in the advanced countries they do so on a level far exceeding that of kings and emperors in all previous ages . . .

Trade and the fruits of industrial civilization beat all the conquests made by all the kings and emperors throughout all history into a cocked hat.

    . . . not only do billions more people survive, but in the advanced countries they do so on a level ... that just a few generations ago would have been regarded as possible only in a world of science fiction. With the turn of a key, the push of a pedal, and the touch of a steering wheel, they drive along highways in wondrous machines at sixty miles an hour. With the flick of a switch, they light a room in the middle of darkness. With the touch of a button, they watch events taking place ten thousand miles away. With the touch of a few other buttons, they talk to other people across town or across the world. They even fly through the air at six hundred miles per hour, forty thousand feet up, watching movies and sipping martinis in air-conditioned comfort as they do so. In the United States [and most other industrialized parts of the world] most people can have all this, and spacious homes or apartments, carpeted and fully furnished, with indoor plumbing, central heating, air conditioning, refrigerators, freezers, and gas or electric stoves, and also personal libraries of hundreds of books, records, compact disks, and tape recordings; they can have all this, as well as long life and good health—as the result of working forty hours a week.

These are the benefits of production, not of destruction; of science and technology put to human ends, not to martial ends; of the fruits of freedom and individual rights, not of tribalism, or nationalism or the gang rule of dictatorship.

Ludwig von Mises saw at first hand the destructive result of two world wars.  After the second, he observed:

    The statement that one man's boon is the other man's damage is valid only with regard to robbery war and booty. The robber's plunder is the damage of the despoiled victim.  But war and commerce are two different things...
    What distinguishes man from animals is the insight into the advantages that can be derived from cooperation under the division of labor...  The emergence of the international division of labor requires the total abolition of war.  Such is the essence of the laissez-faire philosophy of [free trade] ...  This philosophy is of course incompatible with [state worship]...
    The root of the evil is not the construction of new, more dreadful weapons.  It is the spirit of conquest...  Modern civilization is a product of the philosophy of laissez faire.  It cannot be preserved under the ideology of government omnipotence...  To defeat the aggressors is not enough to make peace durable.  The main thing is to discard the ideology that generates war.

Which, in summary, is to discard completely the ideology of state worship and omnipotent government.  

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Friday, 25 April 2008

War. What is it good for?


Today's Anzac commemorations bring many reflections on the nature of war. Here very briefly is mine. 
    War is brutal, destructive, and unutterably horrific. It is heart-breakingly tragic for all involved. War is hell. Wars very rarely have winners, only those who have lost the least. War, as The Age said, "is a dangerous and terrible thing, which should only ever be seen as a last resort." 
    In short, war is the second-worst thing on earth.  
    Like economic depressions and murder by concentration camp, wars are neither acts of nature nor 'Acts of God': Wars are acts of man -- of men who hope to achieve their values by violence, and who will do so if others do not rise to defend their own lives and their own values.  Wars are the result of aggression by those who see value only in force, and who see other human beings as chattel.
    They are the second-worst thing on earth only because the very worst is tyranny, an act of war by governments against those they are supposed to protect. It is with the existence of tyrannical governments and of movements intent on inflicting tyranny and oppression against others that wars of conquest and campaigns of terror begin. It is  those who seek their values through violence that makes war possible; it is the existence of such entities that make wars of self-defence and liberation necessary.
    It is not enough simply to declare oneself against war and wish war's destruction would go away.  Pacifism itself only rewards aggression.  Pacifism kills.  It is necessary to oppose aggression and to resist tyranny. 
    When aggressors seek Lebensraum, then appeasement just rewards the aggression and fuels further aggression.  When slave pens are allowed to flourish, then peace without justice is not true peace. 
   Peace without justice rewards the tyrannical, rearms the aggressor, and is an injustice to those whom the tyrants enslave and kill.  Every semi-free country has the right to defend itself against aggressors, and to liberate the slave pen.  As long as some human beings choose to deal with other human beings with the whip, the chain and the gun -- with stonings, fatwahs and holocausts -- with the torture chamber, the dungeon and the gulag -- as long as some men continue to enslave and attempt to enslave others, then wars will continue to happen, and we will continue to need to be ready to defend ourselves. 
    If we have things worth living for -- and we do -- then for that much at least we all have things worth defending. As Thomas Jefferson observed over two-hundred years ago, the price of our liberty is eternal vigilance. Two-hundred years later, nothing has changed. If war is horrific, then tyranny is worse. 
    In the name of liberty, let us resolve to remember the roots of all war:

If men want to oppose war, it is statism that they must oppose. So long as they hold the tribal notion that the individual is sacrificial fodder for the collective, that some men have the right to rule others by force, and that some (any) alleged “good” can justify it—there can be no peace within a nation and no peace among nations.

    Lest we forget.

[Image is from Charles Sargeant Jagger's Artillery Monument at Hyde Park Corner, London.]

UPDATE 1:  Along these lines, Lindsay Perigo argues we should honour the ANZACs by taking out the Nanny State.

And he's right, you know.  Our soldiers didn't die for this.

UPDATE 2: Reflects Liberty Scott:

    The price for peace is defence, it is deterrence and the willingness to respond to aggression. It is only when belligerence is clearly beyond imagination that this can be rolled back, and western Europe is today an example of countries that could hardly imagine waging war on each other, though they need not go far to find those who will...
[T]ake time today to remember those who lost it all for your freedom. They did more for peace than anyone who protests for it ever have.

As George Orwell is supposed to have said, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Or as David Kopel concludes, if you want to give thanks for peace, then thank a soldier. 

For those in Australia and New Zealand, today's the day.

"Our passion for good wins out at the last."

How this delights me: this will and this promise
Of yours for my country!
The eyes of Persuasion–how I adore them
For watching over my lips and my tongue
When pitted against your so wild opposition...
Our passion for good
Wins out at the last.

Aeschylus, The Eumenides 458 B.C. [hat tip Michael Newberry]. 

The speech comes from Athena's persuasive peroration that transforms The Furies, the ancient agents of Revenge, into the Eumenides or 'Benevolent Ones.'

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Crisis meeting of the AGW Politbureau

Vincent Gray has received the minutes of the recent meeting of the IPCC Steering Committee (The Politbureau) to consider the crisis that has arisen from the recent apparent cooling of the climate.  Read them here.

"It just doesn't wash"

Some interesting observations here from an American outdoorsman commenting on the canyoning tragedy in the Tongariro in which seven people were killed, particularly on the media's "almost surreal" focus on private suffering, and how Americans would have a different focus.  "Current news reports are concentrating on the funerals," he notes, "with the usual media focus on heroism, bravery and related subjects like faith, God, and healing."  In other words, what Lindsay Perigo describes as "the phony grief of the media ghouls."  He continues:

We Americans and our media tend to point fingers hard and fast after adventure fatalities, but Kiwis apparently follow the opposite philosophy to an almost surreal extreme. The prevailing New Zealand attitude seems to be that adventure requires risk, adventurers shouldn’t be coddled, the OPC is very professional, and no one could have predicted what happened. And I’d like to believe that, but it just doesn’t wash.

Read why it won't wash, and wonder why the media here aren't asking the same questions.

Broadband, by order!

New Zealanders need broadband, you say?  Okay, then if they need it as desperately as you say, why don't they seem prepared (as things stand presently) to pay voluntarily for the investment necessary?  Why does one of the two major parties think we need to be forced to pay for nationalised broadband, withdrawing more than $1.5 billion of investment capital from those New Zealanders who voluntarily choose their own investments based on reasonable return, and transferring it to a project that in the present environment is only apparently a goer as long as government force lies behind it.

Do you think perhaps there's a good reason, or several reasons, that New Zealanders haven't paid voluntarily for the sort of broadband that's now being talked about?

The fact is that the alleged need New Zealanders have for broadband -- a need that National says is worth spending taxpayers money at the rate of $2000 per household -- is only a problem from the standpoint of central planning, which necessarily views human beings as a collective incapable of direction, and which finds it simply unfathomable that individuals are capable of understanding and acting in their own best interests.

But this is quite wrong.  In actual fact, if government meddling and government restrictions were removed, then individuals are quite capable themselves of voluntarily redirecting their efforts and their investment capital to filling this alleged need, or any real need.  The fact is that if $1.5 billion of spending were to truly attract a benefit of $4.5 billion (and this figure that's been bandied around isn't just guesswork), then this is $4.5 billion of benefit to specific individuals.  Why wouldn't they be prepared to stump up voluntarily if their risk was minimised by the removal of the various restrictions on doing so?  Or as Annie Fox puts it in itemising the particular restrictions that need to go, "Remove the Red Tape, the Fibre Optics will follow."

Restricting investment and then using government force and taxpayer dollars to pick 'winners' was the leitmotif of an earlier National Government under Muldoon.  Liberty Scott recalls some of the 'winners' that the Muldoon Government picked in its 'Think Big' programme (some of which we're still paying for), muses on the resurrection of this flagship Muldoonist failure, and has eight relevant questions that any supporter of John Boy Thinking Big must be able to answer.

John Key's National Party?  They sure as hell aren't the answer.

UPDATE:  Says Matt Burgess at Anti Dismal:

    This is Think Big 21st century style.
    The objection is not that better broadband is a bad thing. In the 1980s, more electricity was a good thing but Clyde Dam was a disaster. The problem with National's plan is that it's likely to give New Zealanders less broadband at higher cost and lower quality than might otherwise have been achieved, much as Clyde Dam did for electricity.
There are several reasons for this pessimism...

Debt & demolition

What honest person wouldn't sympathise with this story:

A builder who was not paid for the £22,000 porch and conservatory he built for a customer has taken revenge by demolishing his own handiwork.

Story here in the Telegraph.


There are some things I hate hearing at the funeral of a loved one, you know the sort of thing . . .

  • He's gone to a better place.
    No, he's dead.  He won't be going anywhere ever again.
  • He's gone to join the Lord.
    No, he hasn't gone to join your imaginary friend.  He's dead.
  • God has the last word today, not death.
    It doesn't get any more final than death.
  • God has prepared him a room in His house.
    No He hasn't.  He's dead.
  • At least he's finally out of pain.
    No, he's dead.
  • Now he's in peace.
    No, he's dead.
  • It's a blessing really.
    No, it doesn't get any worse. He's dead.
  • Now he'll have life everlasting.
    No, he's just lost the only life he'll ever have, you arsehole.  He's dead.
  • This is a test from God.
    No, it's a test whether or not I can refrain from punching you in the nose.
  • Life is a vale of tears, with paradise as its reward.
    You unspeakable lowlife.
  • It's for the best, really.
    No , it's not, you arsehole. It's an unspeakable bloody tragedy -- the end of a human life -- a life that can never be replaced.  There's nothing good about it.

Here's about the only one that does make any sense:

  • This is a test of faith.
    Yes. It should be.

If Christians come knocking at our door at any other time the interfering busybodies are generally sent on their way with a well-deserved flea in their ear, yet for some reason the interfering bastards are given a free ride at funerals -- when they take advantage of everyone's emotional guard being down -- with the result that at a time of utter loss and devastation the bereaved don't get a chance to reflect on their loss in peace, but are assailed instead with bullshit, bromides and superstitious fictions. 

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Kindersymphonies Project - Frank Lloyd Wright


A group of four kindergartens designed in 1926 for the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. Wright archivist Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer reckons "no project more evidently portrays Wright's love of delighting small children than this one for a group of four playhouses in Oak Park, Illinois.  Even the title suggests the romance of the scheme, 'Kindersymphonies.' The names he selected for the playhouses further suggest the gaiety of the project: 'The Goblin,' or 'Scherzo,' 'Two-for-a-Penny,' 'The Iovanna,' after his daughter's name, and 'The Anne Baxter' after his granddaughter."

The perspective shows a Froebelian playhouse with coloured globes and a reflecting pool.


Tuesday, 22 April 2008


I'm off to Christchurch on business shortly, and unlikely to be posting for twenty-four hours -- feel free to talk about me while I'm gone.  Or instead, to catch up on Popular NOT PC this last month:

  1. Where was God?
  2. Testing liberty against slavery
  3. I will arise now, and go from Glenbrook Beach
  4. Even freeish trade is a good thing
  5. Why Aucklanders don't use public transport
  6. Peter Brown is right
  7. Frank Lloyd Wright's 1938 Dream House
  8. You can be too thin
  9. Stop attacking John Boy
  10. Auckland Domestic Airport

Or check out some of my regular reads:

Hypar umbrella, by Felix Candela

The formwork, falsework and idea of Felix Candela's thin concrete-shelled hypar 'umbrellas' has always fascinated me with their possibilities . . . so simple,  so elegant, so suggestive.  I have several models along these lines around the house just waiting for the right opportunity . . .


Monday, 21 April 2008

MG meets Montessori


I did get to Napier over the weekend for the Montessori Association conference -- in a different MG than the one I'd intended, and just in time to take keynote speaker Cheryl Ferreira for a spin around the Art Deco city.  As she said, there's nothing like a bit of wind through your sari.
[Photo by Fred Stevens from Studio NZ Photography, www.studioNZ.com]

Australia's Rudd 2020 GabFest

As is to demonstrate Ayn Rand's  point that you can't force a man to think, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's ThinkFest 2008 has drawn to a close with commentator Piers Akerman declaring, "If there was an independent thought voiced in opposition to the generally anodyne motherhood statements, it went unheard"; Melbourne mother Kate Hands saying, "Most of the suggestions were obvious and had already been done in the past"; and Tim Blair judging this the summit’s best idea:

"Make death a better experience"

Cate-BlondesGetMoreBill Must have been a good show.  Meanwhile luvvie Cate Blanchett "set the audience nodding in approval when she stated her belief in ‘a long and meaningful relationship between arts and government’."  Story here from the sycophantic ABC. Sounds like if you'd endorsed the idea of ‘a long and meaningful relationship between anything and government' you'd have this handpicked audience nodding in agreement, and probably awarding extra marks for originality.  This was after all, as Prodos describes it, "a Summit of Fashionable Fascism."  And as Tim Blair notes,

"Each of the summit’s 10 groups have until three o’clock this afternoon to identify their three ideas, including one that costs nothing to implement."  Imagine the panic if they’d been asked to come up with ideas that made money.

Entertaining commentary here by Tim Blair, here and here by Andrew Bolt, and this definitive report by Annabell Crabb, who described the weekend's GabFest as "Vatican II, with Kevin Rudd playing the role of God."


"The whole truth"

In a court room one is required to present the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  This litany remains an excellent guide for anyone undertaking the job of making a genuine case against something or someone.

To make a case, whether scientific or criminal, one must present to an audience the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  In other words, one presents all relevant facts without distortion or deception: one presents the truth, and nothing but.  We might testify in court, for example, that a defendant owned a gun that matched the bullet found in the victim, and then invite the appropriate conclusions about culpability to be drawn.  Or we might report from the lab that experiments showed judicious application of our new wonder drug caused an abatement in a disease we hope to cure.

But this in itself is insufficient -- one must not leave out facts which are inconvenient to one's case.  One may have footnotes and witness statements for everything we do report, but if relevant facts remain unreported, then the footnotes and witness statements are either cherrypicking, if intentional, or unfortunate,  if inadvertent -- but the result in the end is that our report is worthless.

(By the way, to establish precisely which facts are relevant, it's helpful to fully understand the causal link between those facts of which we are aware -- just another reason that no explanation is complete without causality.)

Telling the whole truth means looking for facts that contradict one's argument, and then reporting them.  If we know that on the night the victim died, for example, that the defendant spent the entire time in full public view at a function for police prosecutors, then it would be wrong to omit this fact from our testimony.  If we know that not all our experiments have worked, and we are unable to explain the causality behind those that do or don't, then it would be wrong to say we know the whole truth, and dishonest not to seek a full explanation.

It's important to understand that if the omission of relevant facts is intentional, then being economical with the truth is the same thing as lying.  If unintentional,  then it begins to look like incompetence.  If done repeatedly it begins to look like a modus operandi, and one is entitled to simply disregard intentionality, and simply ignore anything further from that quarter.

So to conclude: Honest reportage and honest scientific discussion represents the whole truth -- that is, all relevant facts.   A report or discussion that ignores or fails to present all relevant facts is worthless.  So too is a reporter or interlocutor who cherrypicks.

What prompted me to write this post today?  Simple.  Because Ian Wishart has a new book out.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Beer O'Clock: The not so bitter taste of bitter

Your regular Friday Beer O'Clock post comes to you this week from SOBA's Stu. 

A few weeks back I crowded in to The Opera House, with what seemed like the majority of Wellington’s beautiful people (and at least half of Split Enz), to see American rock band Wilco play a fantastic two-hour set. In the weeks leading up to the gig – probably my most anticipated gig ever – I coughed and gagged at the nonsensical terms “alt-country” and “the American Radiohead”. It got me thinking about pigeon-holes, stereotypes, branding, categorisation… basically what this article comes down too, each and every week.

I’ll talk more about the wider concept of categorisation at the end of this beer style series but, for today, I want to relate it to the not so bitter taste of ‘bitter’ – the most misleading term in all of beer (besides, perhaps, the false claims of ‘ale’ used by marketing companies masquerading as breweries).

Bitter is an interesting term, with a history far too long and complex to give it any real justice here (though a reasonable start can be made at wiki). It’s an interesting term because it describes a taste sensation that would generally be described as least favourite. Strangely, it is used by some breweries to describe beers that are not very bitter at all, while it is carefully avoided by other brewers with intensely bitter beers. Indeed, “bitter” is such an unpopular term that the good folk at BJCP have euphemistically described the bitter category ‘English Pale Ale’ (even though every style of beer within the category is one form or other of ‘bitter’).

Bitter is not actually all that bitter. The BJCP style guide describes it perfectly in these few words: Drinkability is a critical component of the style. It should always be well-balanced, with neither malt or hop dominating. An excellent bitter, at 3%, is the perfect drink for the thirsty amongst us but equally, at 6+%, can be something for the more contemplative sessions.

One of the fun things about bitters is the fantastic names that breweries have given them (something a lot of New Zealand breweries – with their “premium” ideals – seem a little scared of). Broadside, Formidable, London Pride, Speculation, Landlord and Bombardier are some of the more well-known bitters, with Pridenjoy, Workie Ticket, Fine Soft Day, Granny Wouldn’t Like It and Sneck Lifter some of the lesser-known but more imaginatively named beers.

In the local market we have ‘Bookbinder’, from Emerson’s Brewery, as an excellent – very new-world – interpretation of they style (with reasonably good availability), while two or three bitters, of varying strengths and of the very highest quality, are always available on the handpumps of Galbraith’s Ale House and The Twisted Hop (some very good names amongst them too).

Anyway, as for Wilco, they’ve been nowhere near anything I’d call “alt-country” for their last 10 years (or four albums, if you count in that base). And as for the Radiohead comparison – a band with its head so far up its own arse that I can only hear a muffled café-style resonance from out here – there’s really very little to compare.

As for bitter, it is a fantastic drink. There have been millions of stories shared over a pint, and there are thousands of reasons to recommend it. I just implore you all to take a step on the journey towards exploring it.

Slainte mhath, Stu

Message to the world's poor: "Starve! Earth's worth it."

1482929738_8dc47f6734_m Another example here of how government controls lead to more government controls which lead to ... well, read on:

    In the last year, the price of wheat has tripled, corn doubled, and rice almost doubled. As prices soared, food riots have broken out in about 20 poor countries including Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, and Mexico. In response some countries, such as India, Pakistan Egypt and Vietnam, are banning the export of grains and imposing food price controls.
    Are rising food prices the result of the economic dynamism of China and India, in which newly prosperous consumers are demanding more food—especially more meat?

No, they aren't, as Reason's Ronald Bailey demonstrates .  They're proof that the effects of global warming are already upon us.  To be specific, the effect of government overreaction to warmist nonsense is already upon us.

    If surging demand is not the problem, what is? In three words: stupid energy policies [from which New Zealand isn't immune, and from which we'll be paying the price directly this winter] ... 
Even worse is the bioethanol craze. Politicians in both the United States and the European Union are mandating that vast quantities of food be turned into fuel as they chase the chimera of "energy independence"... The result of these mandates is that about 100 million tons of grain will be transformed this year into fuel, drawing down global grain stocks to their lowest levels in decades. Keep in mind that 100 million tons of grain is enough to feed nearly 450 million people for a year.

But it won't be feeding them, will it.  Instead, their demand to be fed-- and in the case of third world populations the demand for grain is demand for the very stuff of life itself -- is being turned into higher and ever higher prices.

    [Dennis Avery from the Hudson Institute is right to conclude:] "Biofuels are purely and simply the biggest Green mistake we've ever made and we're still making it."

The gift of an Enlightenment hero

Liberty In the nineteenth century the Statue of Liberty, called officially 'Liberty Enlightening the World,' was gifted by France to the people of New York as a sign of their common friendship in liberty.  It was a gift to the Nation of the Enlightenment from a country who played a major part in the Age of Enlightenment, and as a symbol of liberty it is still preeminent.

07aristotle.2.190 Another gift to the American people has just been unveiled in a New York park, a gift from Greece to the American people -- a bust of the 'Father of the Enlightenment' given to the Nation of the Enlightenment by the country that gave him birth. Story here in the New York Times.

Of course, that's not exactly the way the gift citation reads, but as the city’s parks commissioner said at the bust's unveiling: “In the spirit of Aristotle’s words, ‘The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance'."

NB:  Further on the 'Aristotle is the Father of the Enlightenment' theme is this, ahem, enlightening passage from Leonard Peikoff

The development from Aquinas through Locke and Newton represents more than four hundred years of stumbling, tortuous, prodigious effort to secularize the Western mind, i.e., to liberate man from the medieval shackles. It was the buildup toward a climax: the eighteenth century, the Age of Enlightenment. For the first time in modern history, an authentic respect for reason became the mark of an entire culture; the trend that had been implicit in the centuries-long crusade of a handful of innovators now swept the West explicitly, reaching and inspiring educated men in every field. Reason, for so long the wave of the future, had become the animating force of the present...  The father of this new world was a single philosopher: Aristotle. On countless issues, Aristotle's views differ from those of the Enlightenment. But, in terms of broad fundamentals, the philosophy of Aristotle is the philosophy of the Enlightenment.

Finally, positive proof of global warming ...

I concede.  I've been following the claims made for global warming since 1991, and ever since then I've been waiting for that one piece of evidence, anything at all, that proves the claims.

It's now arrived.  Although there's not yet proof it's a threat to the planet, or to us -- in fact, the new evidence strongly suggests it has been a positive boon -- we do now have positive proof that global warming exists .  Click here to see the evidence.

Rosenwald School Project - Frank Lloyd Wright


A school designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1928 for the Rosenwald Fund, a voluntary organisation that built schools for African American students "well meaning in intent but uninspired in design."  It was never built, ironically, because the Fund continued to favour 'Colonial' styled architecture for its buildings.  Another Schoolhouse for Negro Children for the Rosenwald Foundation was designed for San Diego in 1929, which went unbuilt for similar reasons.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Pukekohe readers?

Readers in the Pukekohe area might like to consider joining us at the Counties Inn this evening to help set up a group of local freedom lovers.  That's the Counties Inn, 17 Paerata Rd, Pukekohe.  Doors open 7pm.  All welcome.

Reality check for Chicken Little warmist

James Hansen has been at the forefront of warmism since that day in 1988 that he told US Senators in the midst of a 1988 summer heatwave that the earth was burning up, and it was all our fault. More recently, he's been telling anyone who'll listen that we need to hold atmospheric CO2 levels at a level of 350 parts per million or else the sky will fall in. 

Currently however we're measuring 385 parts per million CO2, so achieving Hansen's target  presumably means going "carbon negative."  In fact, the atmosphere hasn't measured 350 parts per million CO2 since 1988, the year Hansen spoke to those sweating Senators.

So Indur Goklany asks the reasonable question, "Is the world better off today compared to 1988?"  Let’s check:

  • Life expectancy in developing countries was 4-5 years lower in 1988 than it is today (62 years rather than the current 67 years). Even in the US, it increased from 74.9 years in 1988 to 77.8 years in 2004!
  • Compared to today, at least 15 more infants out of every 1,000 in developing countries died in 1988 before reaching their first birthdays. In industrialized countries, the infant mortality rate dropped from 9 to 5.
  • India’s per capita income (in constant dollars adjusted for purchasing power) has more than doubled since 1988. China’s has more than quadrupled. As a result, hundreds of millions are no longer living in absolute poverty today. Even the US’s per capita income has increased by 40 percent.
  • Food production per capita in developing countries has increased 36 percent since 1988, despite a population increase of 40% (that is, 1.5 billion more people). [What fraction of this was due to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and petroleum-based and greenhouse gas-emitting fertilizers, all of which stimulates crop growth?].

The answer looks like a very firm "Yes!"  And crucially, as Goklany notes, these improvements are primarily due to the economic growth and agricultural activity that fuelled the rise of CO2 concentrations beyond 350 ppm "... had CO2 concentrations been capped at 350 ppm, we would have to forgo many of the above improvements in the quality of life, and not only in the developing world."  And what sane person would want that?

Looked at in this context, one might say that if the sky is going to fall in then it's more likely to be by following Hansen's prescription and stifling economic growth and agricultural activity than it is by increasing CO2.

UPDATE: For those of you who like graphs, here's the temperature record from 1979 until the day before yesterday (well, to March 2008, which in climatic terms is the same thing). Click the pic to enlarge. You can see how Hansen's heatwave has been in effect since his 1988 warning -- in fact aside from 1998's El Nino, temps have struggled to reach those experienced in that sweltering summer.


Coyote vs Acme

WileECoyote An amusing brief has been filed  in an Arizona court by Wile E. Coyote, claiming damages from the Acme Company for their generally defective products. 

Who wouldn't be sympathetic to Mr Coyote's plea?